Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Parrilla: A little taste of Argentina in Washington Heights

by dfhnyc (writer), New York, March 09, 2007

Way uptown in Washington Heights on Broadway between 164th and 165th St., is Parrilla, a paradise for steak lovers on a budget. As you walk in, you may be turned off (or on) by the red orange lights emanating from the back of the restaurant, but look to your right and you'll quickly turn your attention to the large grill from which the restaurant takes its name. (Parrilla in Spanish means grill.) The grill is enclosed on all sides by floor to ceiling glass panels, fish-bowl style, so while you wait you can watch as the succulent steak is cooked to perfection by a smiling cook with large tongs.

You'll then be greeted by a smiling hostess/waitress who will escort you toward your table (and closer to the flaming red lights). The wait staff is warm and friendly, mostly female and all Latin. Spanish is clearly the language of choice here, but don't feel intimidated if you don't speak the language.

When you sit down at your table you will be handed two menus -- a large, laminated one featuring the lunch specials and the a la carte menu. A few minutes later the waitress will come back, chimichurri and hot sauce in hand. The chimicurri, a very typical Argentine condiment used to season meat, is made of chopped parsley, dried oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, and paprika with olive oil. It is absolutely delicious. Some customers say that they can't eat without it! The hot sauce, which to be honest I've only tried by mistake since I'm not partial to hot food is good, but beware if you're not use to spice.

The waitress will come back a little later to take your order. Now the fun begins. For a mere $4.99, you get your choice of grilled skirt steak, broiled sole, chicken, or shrimp plus salad, black beans, and rice. (For now, you also get soda, but rumor is that will be taken off the lunch special soon.) Whatever you decide to order, you are in for a real treat. The quality of the food is outstanding, especially given the price. The steak is tender and flavorful -- even without the chimichurri and hot sauce. The sole is seasoned and cooked perfectly, as are the chicken and the shrimp. The steak, however, is the main attraction. It is what draws in the crowds, which at peak lunch hours can be quite large. So unless, you don't eat red meat, my suggestion is that you dedicate your first visit to Parrilla (indubitably there will be more) to trying the steak.

Once you are done eating, your plates will be quickly cleared and the waitress will come back to ask you if you want any dessert or coffee. They serve a wide array of desserts -- tiramisu, flan, tres leches cake, carrot cake, NY cheesecake. I must say I've tried them all, and the best are definitely the tiramisu and the tres leches cake, a Latin American cake soaked in three types of milk: evaported, condensed, and whole milk. You may be too full to try any of these, in which case, the cafe con leche -- the Latin equivalent of a cafe au lait -- is a good choice. It's light and sweet and the perfect ending to a great meal.

Parrilla might not be close to the more trendy parts of the city-- or even tourist-y ones, but it is well worth the trip. The atmosphere is unique and inviting, the music is lively, and most importantly, the food is delectable. Entrees (not lunch specials) average about $15, which for Manhattan, is still quite inexpensive.

About the Writer

dfhnyc is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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